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A photo of Sony’s 1000XM4 noise-canceling headphones on someone’s head. Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

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The best noise-canceling headphones to buy right now

Get some peace and quiet with the best noise-canceling headphones for a variety of uses

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Forget about taking them on a plane: noise-canceling headphones have done a better job proving their worth now — during all these months many of us have spent working at 比特币官网交易平台home — than ever before. They’re an essential piece of kit for finding some peace and quiet when you’re in a shared living space. And when you venture outside, they’ve only gotten more impressive at hushing those distractions, too.

No matter how you’re using them, the criteria for picking the best noise-canceling headphones haven’t changed: the most important measures are comfort, how well they can eliminate outside noise, sound quality, battery life, and whether they support multipoint pairing so you can connect to two audio sources at once. The right headphones for you will differ based on which of those things you prioritize, but our overall pick for the best noise-canceling headphones is Sony’s WH-1000XM4. They offer a good mix of sound quality, everyday durability, and great noise cancellation.

Sony WH-1000XM4

  • $260
  • $350
  • 26% off

Prices taken at time of publishing.

Sony’s 1000XM4 headphones improve on their popular predecessors with new features like multipoint pairing and automatic speech detection. They retain the same excellent comfort and top-notch sound quality.

But if you’re looking for something a bit different, there are still plenty of options. If you’re an iPhone owner and will only settle for the best, the AirPods Max live up to their price. But Sennheiser and Shure also sell some tremendous ANC headphones if sound quality is your main focus. Trying to find the best headphones for Zoom life? Microsoft and Bose both have strong contenders. And if you’re after something a little more stylish, Marshall’s headphones just might surprise you.

The best noise-canceling headphones in 2021


A photo of Sony’s WH-1000XM4, the best noise-canceling headphones for most people, resting on a table.
Sony’s 1000XM4 headphones remain the overall best noise-canceling headphones.
Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

1. Sony WH-1000XM4

The best noise-canceling headphones for most people

Sony’s WH-1000XM4 might look identical to the previous 1000XM3s, but the company has made slight design tweaks for added comfort on those days when you find yourself wearing the M4s for hours.

Noise cancellation has been further improved from the performance of the M3s, putting Sony neck and neck with Bose in overall effectiveness of silencing your surroundings. Sound quality is basically identical to the previous headphones — it’s still punchy, full, and very enjoyable — as is the marathon 30-hour battery life. But Sony addressed two of the biggest issues with the M3s this time around: the 1000XM4s have improved voice microphone performance, and they can now connect to two devices simultaneously, so you can stay clued into what’s happening on your phone when you’re working away on your laptop or tablet.

Sony also has a really unique trick for convenience: the optional “speak to chat” function will automatically pause your music and pipe in ambient audio when the headphones detect you’ve started talking, which is handy when you’re grabbing a coffee. And unlike their predecessors, the 1000XM4s can tell when they’ve been removed from your ears for auto-pause. They still cost the same hefty $350, but you’re getting more for your money with the 1000XM4s than before.


The AirPods Max don’t come cheap, but they’re the best noise-canceling headphones for sound quality.
Photo by Becca Farsace / The Verge

2. Apple AirPods Max

The best noise-canceling headphones for sound quality

There was definitely some sticker shock when Apple introduced a $549 set of noise-canceling headphones. The AirPods Max cost significantly more money than any of our other recommendations. But Apple’s build quality is on another level: these trade the plastic you’ll find in many noise-canceling headphones for steel and aluminum, and the ear cups are a breathable mesh fabric. They’re hefty headphones, there’s no denying that. But aside from Apple refusing to include a headphone cable in the box, there’s nothing about the AirPods Max that feels cheap. And I appreciate the simplicity of using the digital crown for controls instead of relying on hit-or-miss gestures like taps and swipes.

The most important part is that the AirPods Max deliver the best audio quality you can get from high-end Bluetooth headphones. They have an immersive, wide soundstage, fantastic dynamics, and you’ll find yourself hopping around your music library just to hear what they bring out in your favorite songs. Apple’s noise cancellation is right up there with Sony and Bose, and no one does transparency mode better; at times, it can make you think you’re not wearing headphones at all. Extra features like Spatial Audio (surround sound for movies and TV shows) and automatic switching between Apple gadgets help make it a bit easier to swallow that daunting price.

But the AirPods Max do have faults. The carrying case is abysmal, battery life is only average for the category, and just like regular AirPods, they’re designed with Apple’s ecosystem in mind. It gets much harder to justify dropping $550 on them if you live outside the iPhone and Mac universe.


A photo of Sennheiser’s Momentum Wireless 3 headphones, the best noise-canceling headphones for sound quality, worn around someone’s neck.
The Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 3 offer sublime comfort and phenomenal sound quality.
Photo by Becca Farsace / The Verge
A photo of Shure’s Aonic 50 headphones, the best noise-canceling headphones for sound quality.
Shure’s first noise-canceling headphones offer fantastic build quality and support for codecs like apt-X HD and LDAC.
Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

3. Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 3 and Shure Aonic 50

The best sounding noise-canceling headphones if you’re not an Apple user

If you prioritize enjoying your music over drowning out the world, then both Sennheiser and Shure have fantastic options with superb sound quality and adequate noise cancellation. Sennheiser’s Momentum Wireless have detailed, bass-rich, and vibrant sound combined with sublime comfort. The same can be said for the newer Shure Aonic 50 headphones, which support advanced codecs like apt-X HD and LDAC.

If you’re a stickler for audio quality, both headphones can be used wired with either a 3.5mm headphone jack or over USB-C. They each outdo Bose and other more mainstream picks in terms of build quality and materials. That premium feel does demand a bit more, with both of these selling for the same $400 price tag. Their noise-canceling isn’t on par with the best, but you still get convenient software features like ambient passthrough and customizable EQ on top of the brilliant sound.


An image of the Surface Headphones 2, the best noise-canceling headphones for ease of use, resting on a backpack.
The Surface Headphones 2 have intuitive dial controls and are a joy to use.
Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

4. Microsoft Surface Headphones 2

The best noise-canceling headphones for multitasking

With the Surface Headphones 2, Microsoft retained the brilliant turning-dial control scheme of the first-generation pair and made noticeable improvements to sound quality and battery life. After you’ve gotten used to adjusting volume or noise cancellation levels simply by twisting the dial around each ear cup, you’ll never want to go back to hunting for button nubs again.

Microsoft Surface Headphones 2

  • $231
  • $250
  • 8% off

Prices taken at time of publishing.

Microsoft’s Surface Headphones 2 have the same intuitive dial controls as the originals for volume and noise cancellation. But the sequel offers better sound quality and battery life at a cheaper price.

The Surface Headphones 2 are also an excellent pick for productivity, as their multipoint pairing works seamlessly when a call comes in on your phone while you’re at work on your PC. Something about the way Microsoft handles simultaneous Bluetooth connections seems more reliable and consistent than what everyone else is doing. It’s rare that I encounter any bugs when connected to two devices at once. It’s hard to oversell this benefit during work-at-比特币官网交易平台home life, and you get the convenience for much less cash than the Sony or Bose headphones.


A close-up photo of the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700, the best noise-canceling headphones for video conferencing and voice calls.
Bose’s Noise Canceling Headphones 700 are excellent for all your Zoom and voice call needs.
Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

5. Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700

The best noise-canceling headphones for voice calls

Bose is the brand synonymous with noise-canceling headphones, and the Noise Canceling Headphones 700 are another example of why that reputation is well-earned. They have satisfactory sound, excellent voice call quality, and great noise cancellation effectiveness. It’s really a flip of the coin between these and Sony’s 1000XM3 headphones in the eyes of many. Sony ekes out superior battery life and more lively, impactful sound, but Bose’s support for multipoint pairing with two devices at once is a big plus. The Noise Canceling Headphones 700 are comfortable to wear for long stretches of time, even if they aren’t as feather-light as the company’s less expensive QC35 II headphones.

When it comes time to join a Zoom meeting or call someone, you’ll be heard loud and clear by whoever’s on the other end, which can’t be said for all wireless headphones on this list. Bose’s microphone setup on the Noise Canceling Headphones 700 is second to none, though Jabra also fares well here. Battery life is where Bose trails its competitors, with the Noise Canceling Headphones 700 rated at up to 20 hours — short of the 30 hours you can reach with Sony or other picks below.


A photo of the Beats Solo Pro headphones, the best on-ear noise-canceling headphones, worn on a woman’s head.
The Beats Solo Pro headphones have an on-ear design and work best with Apple devices.
Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

6. Beats Solo Pro

The best on-ear noise-canceling headphones

The Beats Solo Pro headphones rest on your ears instead of completely covering them, which some people might prefer. A popular choice at the gym, the Solo Pros have sweat resistance and a strong clamping force on your head so that they’ll stay put during a workout or run. As with most modern Beats headphones and earbuds, the Solo Pros are tuned to drive your day with some oomph to the bass, though they’re more well-balanced than Beats of old.

If you use an iPhone, the Solo Pros can take advantage of Apple ecosystem features like audio sharing and the same seamless setup / pairing process as AirPods. They’ll also be getting the new spatial audio feature coming in iOS 14, which will let you get a surround sound-like experience when watching movies on your iOS device.

They’re not as great at noise cancellation as Bose or Sony, but the on-ear design and a snug fit help the Solo Pros offer good passive noise isolation even when NC is switched off. (You can hit up to 40 hours of battery life if you keep noise cancellation off.)


A photo of the Marshall Monitor II ANC headphones, the best noise-canceling headphones for style, around someone’s neck.
The Marshall Monitor II ANC headphones have a stylish design that ties into the company’s history.
Photo by Avery White for The Verge

7. Marshall Monitor II ANC

The best noise-canceling headphones for style

Marshall’s wireless headphones have proven surprisingly popular, and the company’s most expensive pair is also its best yet. The Monitor II ANC headphones are priced at $320, which puts them on the same playing field as Bose, Sony, and other tech companies that have been making premium noise-canceling cans for many years.

Marshall doesn’t quite match them in sound quality or NC effectiveness; the Monitor IIs have warm, textured sound and perform decently at cutting down on ambient noise. But they definitely stand out from the pack in looks, with a design that speaks to the company’s heritage. The headphones fold up for easy carrying, and Marshall’s signature gold joystick makes the Monitor IIs simple to control.

Marshall Monitor II ANC

  • $320

Prices taken at time of publishing.

Marshall’s noise-canceling headphones stand out for their unique look and easy-to-use joystick for controlling your music. They’re also a battery life champ with up to up to 45 hours of playback.

They can also last up to 30 hours with NC enabled or up to a staggering 45 hours if you’re already someplace quiet and can do without the feature. That impressive longevity beats our primary picks. A lack of AAC codec support at this price stings, but I’ve enjoyed the Monitor IIs every time I’ve put them on. They’re more than just an amp brand stamped onto an average pair of headphones.

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